UPDATE: Southern California smog agency votes to approve beach fire pit regulations (Map, Poll)

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UPDATE 3:23 p.m.: By a 7-6 vote, the South Coast Air Quality Management District board approved regulations that will remove beach fire pits from Newport Beach and possibly other areas.

The vote came after several hours of public comment about the contentious issue, with many in the audience wanting no regulations of something they consider to be a Southern California tradition. More than 80 people came to testify – nearly all of them against the new rules.

The AQMD says the rules won't effect L.A. County and will only impact about 10 percent of fire pits in Orange County. Most of those are in Newport Beach, which has been the only city in Southern California wanting to remove its rings. 

AQMD staff said the science was clear: standing around a fire pit is equivalent to breathing the air from 3 diesel trucks or 800 cigarettes.

Board Member Josie Gonzales said the crowd misunderstood what the board was trying to do, which is not to ban all fire pits, but only a few closest to residents who have complained of breathing problems. 

"To breathe clean air is an inalienable right," Gonzales said. "We govern over the air and only the air."

But several board members argued that the agency shouldn't be sticking its nose in an issue that only one city complained about and has comparatively little effect on the region's pollution.

"If we vote for this rule, we’re going to be the ones who are damaged," said board member Miguel Pulido, who's the mayor Santa Ana.

AQMD board member Shawn Nelson, who sits on the Orange County board of supervisors argued that the new rules are a smokescreen for keeping minorities away from affluent communities.

“They somehow co-opted this agency to bite that bait,” said Nelson. "I’m not proud of this moment." 

The rules will take effect next Spring.

Which SoCal beaches have fire pits?

Click a marker to see how many fire pits are available at that location. Note, this is not an all-inclusive list.

Source: South Coast Air Quality Management District.

PREVIOUSLY: Sparks may fly Friday as Southern California's regulators decide whether to restrict beach fire pits.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District board is considering a staff proposal to prohibit fire rings within 700 feet of homes. That would force relocation or removal of dozens of rings, but it's an alternative to completely banning them. The proposal also would include a pilot program to fuel the rings with gas instead of wood.

There are more than 750 beach fire pits in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Newport Beach residents sought a ban, saying the smoke drifts over and pollutes their homes. But neighboring cities, primarily Huntington Beach, say they are a beach tradition and a tourist attraction.

Supporters have rallied to save them.

Read live tweets from the meeting from KPCC's Ben Bergman, as well as people tweeting with hashtag #firepits:

This story has been updated.

With contributions by KPCC staff and AP staff

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